Food For Yogis

Instruction Series:

1. Instructions to Insight Meditation    2. Benefits of Walking Meditation

3. Interview Guidance      4. Q&A to Vipassana Practice      5. Food for Yogis  


Food for Yogis

Thamanay Kyaw Sayadaw

Take a bite of the dishes below. It will energize your Vipassana practice.

  1. Yogi
  • You should know the meaning of the word “Yogi” because you are a Yogi. You can divide word Yogi into two parts as  "Yoga" and "i". Yoga means effort. "i" means possessor. So Yogi means possessor of effort. There are three kinds of effort:
    1. Initially made to develop the mind and insight,
    2. Boosted by a step until boredom is overcome
    3. Increase step by step until the goal, Nibbāna, is reached.
  • If you have the 1st effort, you are a good Yogi.  If you have the 1st and 2nd effort, you are a better Yogi. If you have all 3 kinds of effort, you are the best Yogi.
  • Now are you a good Yogi,  a better Yogi or the  best Yogi?
  • Your effort will give you the answer.


  1. Statistics of Mindfulness
    • Note once and you are purified of defilements once. At a rate of one noting per second, if you note for one minute, you are purified 60 times; if you note for one hour, you are purified 3,600 times.
    • The more you note, the more purified you are.


  1. Approaching the goal
    • When approaching the finishing line, a sprinter must keep running without slacking. When approaching the Goal, a yogi must keep striving and noting without slacking.


  1. Gaps
    • If there is a gap between two floor planks, dusk and sand enter. If there is no continuity of mindfulness and there is a gap, defilements enter. If there is a concentration-breakdown, defilements enter through the gap.


  1. Confession
    • When a criminal is interrogated intensively and repeatedly, he has to confess the truth. When the object of mindfulness is noted intensively and repeatedly, it has to reveal the truth of impermanence, suffering and being mere phenomenon (without having any abiding self).


  1. Getting closer to Nibbāna
    • Each step of a person walking towards the ShewDagon Pagoda takes him a step closer to it whether he is interested in getting there or not. Each noting of a yogi mindfully walking on the path to Nibbāna bring him closer to Nibbāna whether he is interested in getting there or not.


  1. Magnifying Power
    • One can see even minute things under a strong magnifying glass. A yogi can see even minute phenomena when the power of concentration is strong.


  1. Read Carefully
    • One who reads a book lightly is not aware of all the letters in it. He will come to be more aware of them if he reads carefully. Similarly, a yogi who is superficially mindful does not completely comprehend the object noted. If he is attentively mindful he will come to know more.


  1. When Labelling is Optional
    • When the objects to be noted are occurring at a rapid rate, the yogi may not be able to keep pace with labeling and noting them at each occurrence. He should then let go of labeling and just look at them attentively with the mind. Or, if he wants to keep on labeling, he should just note as much as he can.


  1. Sharp and Bright
    • A knife is sharp only if it is whetted – otherwise it becomes blunt. Brass vessels are shinny only if they are polished – otherwise they become dull. Similarly, a yogi’s insight is sharp and bright only if he is mindful.


  1. Swim to Nibbāna
    • A swimmer has to keep his arms and legs moving all the time. A yogi cannot afford to give any rest to the application of mindfulness; he too has to keep it moving all the time.


  1. Get the Taste
    • Only if one chews the food well can one savour its taste. Only if a yogi concentrates on being mindful of the object to be noted can he comprehend its true nature.


  1. Don’t Change Object Yet
    • Even though another object may arise, there is no need to change it if (attention on) the primary object is not distracted.


  1. As Steady as a Rock
    • A cork dropped onto water floats but a rock dropped into it sinks. A yogi’s mindfulness of the object of meditation should not be (as wobbly) as a cork, but should be (as steady) as a rock.


  1. Never Out of Sight
    • Just as a footballer never loses sight of the football, a badminton player the shuttlecock and a boxer his opponent’s movements, so too the yogi never loses sight of the object of mindfulness.


  1. Creepers and Weeds
    • If a tree is overgrown with creepers and weeds it cannot develop. If the mind is overgrown with creepers and weeds of hindrances, it cannot develop.


  1. What is Satipaṭṭhāna
    • Satipaṭṭhāna is mindfulness of a noted object by entering it, rushing into it, spreading over it so that the mind enters the noted object i.e. the rising movement of the abdomen, rushes into it, spreads all over it so that it (the mind) stays closely and firmly on it (the object). The process is the same when noting “falling” and so on.


  1. Seeing Impermanence
    • Vipassanā is the Insight Knowledge that perceives the arising objects in the light of the threefold characteristics of impermanence, suffering and being mere phenomena. When a hot sensation is noted as "heat", the heat that is occurring is anicca (an impermanent thing); the disappearance of the heat after its appearance is anicca lakkhana (the characteristic of impermanence) and comprehending that it is impermanence after seeing its disappearance is aniccānupassanā (comtemplation of impermanence). Of the three characteristics, if impermanence is seen, then suffering and non-self can also be considered seen.


  1. Sati the Doorkeeper
    • Sati (mindfulness) is like a doorkeeper. A doorkeeper does not admit bad people; he admits good people. Sati does not admit unwholesomeness (akusala); it admits wholesomeness (kusala).


  1. Self Research
    • Practicing Vipassanā meditation is working to find out what “I” is. It is actually research into oneself.


  1. Fresh, Clean Air
    • Fresh, clean air is necessary for life. Without it one become dizzy or unhealthy or even die. If you practice a lot to easily get the fresh, clean air of Satīpaṭṭhāna, it is likely to be with you everywhere.


  1. Mention the Formula, Please!
    • It is not quite alright, not quite correct for a person solving a mathematical problem to give only the answer without mentioning the formula used. If a yogi reports only what he knew (or perceived) without mentioning the procedure of noting, it is not quite alright, not quite correct.


  1. Just Reading Directions Can’t Cure
    • Just by reading the directions on a bottle of medicine, you cannot be cured of your illness. Only by taking the medicine according to its directions can your illness be cured. Similarly, just by reading or listening to the meditation instructions your suffering cannot be cured. Only by practicing according to the instructions can it be cured.


  1. Power of Concentrated Sati
    • When concentrated sati (mindfulness) becomes strong, previous experiences or events in yogi’s life that have been forgotten for a long time may come out and appear in the mind. One may even remember when one stayed in the mother's womb.


  1. Guts to Challenge
    • If a soldier fought with the enemy at the front line and won a battle once before, he naturally becomes encouraged, brave enough and unhesitant to fight again. If the yogi fought with the thought of cowardly withdrawing from painful sensations and won a battle once before, he naturally becomes encouraged and brave enough to fight again. And if he was able to confront most of the unbearable sensation and overcome them step by step once before, he has the guts to challenge any unbearable sensation.


  1. Yogi’s Job
    • Just note continuously whatever occurs – that is a yogi’s job.


  1. When pain becomes so severe:
    • Remain one’s posture: When pain becomes unbearable, you may note the pain and the main object alternately and when the noting mind goes to the primary object closely, you may not be aware of the pain. The pain may be weaker. In this way, you can note the pain and the main object alternately.
    • Change one’s posture: One will of course have to change one’s posture if the sensations do not disappear even after one has noted them for a long time and if they become unbearable, one should then begin noting as “wishing to change, wishing to change.”


  1. Three Sessions of Walking Meditation
    • We have to practice walking meditation for one hour. You can divide the session into three parts. The first twenty minutes, do one-step walking: right step, left step. The second twenty minutes, do two-step walking: lifting, placing. The last twenty minutes, do three-step walking: lifting, pushing forward, placing.


  1. Don’t Count
    • Do not count while you are noting the rising and falling. Do not count rising and falling one, rising and falling two, rising and falling three. Do not count. It is not necessary to count.


  1. Keep the Body and Head Straight
    • When we practice walking meditation, we have to keep our body straight. We should not bend our head too low. When we keep our head too low, we will have a headache. That is why keep the upper body and head straight, but keep the eyes down. When we keep our eyes down, we should be able to see about four or five feet away. We do not know who is passing by. We should keep our eyes down always. Do not look anywhere. Keep the mind onto the foot, not onto the abdomen.


  1. Keep one’s Posture
    • In the beginning of the yogi’s meditational practice, these sensations may tend to increase and lead to a desire to change his posture. This desire should be noted, after which the yogi should go back to noting the sensations of stiffness, heat, etc.


  1. Why is Patience Needed in Meditation?
    • “Patience leads to Nibbāna,” as the saying goes. This saying is most relevant in meditational effort. One must be patient in meditation. If one shifts or changes one’s posture too often because one cannot be patient with the sensation of stiffness or heat that arises, samadhi (good concentration) cannot develop. If samadhi cannot develop, insight cannot result and there can be no attainment of magga (the path that leads to Nibbāna), phala (the fruit of that path) and Nibbāna. That is why patience is needed in meditation.
    • It is patience mostly with unpleasant sensations in the body like stiffness, sensations of heat and pain, and other sensations that are hard to bear. One should not immediately give up one’s meditation on the appearance of such sensations and change one’s meditational posture. One should go on patiently, just noting as “stiffness, stiffness” or “hot, hot.”
    • Moderate sensations of these kinds will disappear if one goes on noting them patiently. When concentration is good and strong, even intense sensations tend to disappear. One then reverts to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.


  1. Reason to Note Rising and Falling While Sitting
    • When one observes a single kind of object for long such as “sitting, sitting”, it would become so easy that he may lose balance from little energy and too much concentration. This would result in sloth and torpor and shallow or weak awareness. That’s why one is instructed to observe “rising and falling” as a main object when one is sitting.


  1. How does a yogi keep the balance between concentration and energy by noting “rising and falling?”
    • Noting “rising and falling” demands neither too much concentration as it is not a monotonous kind of object, nor excessive enthusiasm as it’s only two types of object to note. Thus, the balance can be kept between concentration and energy.


  1. What is the purpose for the rotation of one­hour sitting and one­hour walking in practice?
    • Too much walking tends to arouse more energy but less concentration. So one is scheduled to sit and walk alternately an hour each. Thus, the balance can be kept between concentration and energy.


  1. What does a yogi need to do to see phenomena clearly?
    • At night, for example, one cannot see things clearly. But if one uses torchlight, things can be clearly seen in the spotlight. In the same way, concentration can be compared to the light, through which one can see phenomena clearly: the manner of rising and falling, and the tension, tightness and movement etc.


  1. Why did Mahasi Sayadaw instruct yogis to start their practice with noting “rising and falling”?
    • It will take time to develop concentration if you note an object too varied or too subtle, but concentration can be aroused faster if you observe an obvious and limited object. That is why Mahasi Sayadaw instructed yogis to start their practice with watching the abdomen.


  1. For what purpose did Mahasi Sayadaw instruct us to act very slowly?
    • It is only when you act slowly that your concentration, mindfulness and insight knowledge can keep up with the objects. That’s the reason why you have to start the practice by doing everything slowly and mindfully. Indeed, in the beginning, if you do things fast, your mindfulness or awareness cannot follow.


  1. You cannot get it on credit in Vipassana practice
    • Even though you can buy something on credit and pay for it later, no credit is given in the case of Vipassana. So, you must note an object the moment it takes place lest you become attached to it.


  1. Relativity of pain and concentration
    • When your concentration and awareness are not yet strong, you will find the pain increasing while noting pain, stiffness or heat. But you should keep on noting it with patience and persistence. They often fade away when concentration and awareness are strong enough.


  1. Why labeling an object?
    • In reality, just being aware of an object without labeling at all, will serve the purpose. Without labeling, however, it may be difficult to be fully aware of an object precisely and accurately. Also, it will not be easy for the yogi to report his or her experience to the teacher, or for a teacher to give advice to the yogi. That is the reason why the yogi is instructed to label an object when he or she notes it.


  1. Pile of merit
    • One moment of noting is available in each second. Thus, 60 moments in a minute, 3600 in an hour and 72,000 a day except for the four hours for sleeping. This is a huge pile of merit!


  1. Breathe naturally
    • If the movement is not evident by just noting it mentally, keep touching the abdomen with the palm of your hand. Do not alter the manner of your breathing. Neither slow it down, nor make it faster. Do not breathe too vigorously, either. You will be tired if you change the manner of your breathing. Breathe steadily as usual and note the rising and falling of the abdomen as they occur. Note it mentally, not verbally.


  1. What matters
    • In vipassana meditation, what you name or say doesn’t matter. What really matters is to know or perceive.


  1. From the beginning to the end
    • While noting the rising of the abdomen, do so from the beginning to the end of the movement just as if you are seeing it with your eyes. Do the same with the falling movement.


  1. Concurrency
    • Note the rising movement in such a way that your awareness of it is concurrent with the movement itself. The movement and the mental awareness of it should coincide in the same way as a stone thrown hits the target. Similarly with the falling movement.


  1. Energetically
    • The meditative process is like that of producing fire by energetically and unremittingly rubbing two sticks of wood together so as to attain the necessary intensity of heat (when the flame arises).


  1. Continuity
    • In the same way, the noting in vipassana meditation should be continual and unremitting, without any resting interval between acts of noting whatever phenomena may arise.


  1. Like the blind and deaf
    • Though the eye sees, the yogi must act as if he does not see. Similarly when the ear hears. While meditating, the yogi’s concern is only to note. What he sees and hears are not his concern. So, whatever strange or striking things he may see or hear, he must behave as if he does not see or hear them, merely noting carefully and closely.


  1. Slow in motion
    • They have to make their changes of posture gradually and gently; only then will mindfulness, concentration and insight be good. Begin, therefore, with gentle and gradual movements.


  1. At any moment
    • When samadhi (concentration) and ñana (insight) are strong, the distinctive knowledge can come at any moment. It can come in a single “bend” of the arm or in a single “stretch” of the arm.


  1. Attainment in an instant
    • Realizing that he had practiced the walking meditation to excess and that, in order to balance samadhi (concentration) and viriya (effort), he should practise meditation in the lying posture for a while, he entered his chamber. He sat on the couch and then lay himself down. While doing so and noting “lying, lying,” The venerable Ananda attained Arahatship in an instant.
    • Reaching these three successive stages of the higher path took only a little while. Just think of this example of the Ven. Ananda’s attainment of arahatship. Such attainment can come at any moment and need not take long.
    • That is why the yogi should note with diligence all the time. He should not relax in his noting, thinking, “this little lapse should not matter much.’’


  1. Beginning yogi’s resolution
    • The beginning yogi is likely to miss several things which he should note, but he should resolve to note all. He cannot of course help it if he overlooks and misses some, but, as his samadhi (concentration) becomes strong, he will be able to note closely all these happenings.
    • As the yogi goes on noting thus, he will be able to note more and more of these happenings. In the beginning, as his mind wanders here and there, the yogi may miss noting many things but he should not be disheartened. Every beginner in meditation encounters the same difficulty. But as he becomes more practiced, he becomes aware of every act of mind-wandering until eventually the mind does not wander any more.


  1. Note intention
    • Every time you make a change of posture, you begin with noting your intention or desire to make the change, and go on to noting every movement closely, such as rising from the sitting posture, raising the arm, moving and stretching it. You should make the change at the same time as noting the movements involved.


  1. Non-self
    • All these psycho-physical phenomena are occurring on their own accord, following nobody’s will and subject to nobody’s control. They constitute no individual or ego-entity.


  1. Four hours of sleep
    • The time he is asleep is the resting time for the yogi. But, for the really serious yogi, he should limit his sleeping time to about four hours. This is the “midnight time” permitted by the Buddha. Four hours’ sleep is quite enough. If the beginner in meditation thinks that four hours’ sleep is not enough for health, he may extend it to five or six hours. Six hours’ sleep is clearly enough for health.


  1. Gently and gradually
    • When making bodily movements, the yogi should do so gradually as if he were a weak invalid, gently moving the arms and legs, bending or stretching them, bending down the head and bringing it up. All these movements should be made gently. When rising from the sitting posture, he should do so gradually, noting as “rising, rising.”
    • They have to make their changes of posture gradually and gently; only then will mindfulness, concentration and insight be good. Begin, therefore, with gentle and gradual movements. When rising, the yogi must do so gently like an invalid, at the same time noting as “rising, rising”.


  1. Note mentally
    • You will find the abdomen rising when you breathe in, and falling when you breathe out. The rising should be noted mentally as “rising,” and the falling as “falling.” If the movement is not evident by just noting it mentally, keep touching the abdomen with the palm of your hand.


  1. The Three Characteristics
    • True characteristics of phenomena will be revealed only when they are observed at the moment they arise.
    • “Only when the individual characteristics of phenomena are “seen,” will the conditional characteristics of phenomena become manifest,” meaning the phenomena will be seen in three sequences, arising, lasting and passing away.
    • “only when sankhata (conditional characteristic) becomes apparent, will sāmañña (common characteristic) be ‘seen'. When sāmañña (common characteristic) is “seen,” vipassana-ñāna (insight knowledge) emerged.”


  1. There are three things to report
    • What object occurs to you, how you note it and what you come to know or experience.  For example, you may report thus: “When I breathe in, the abdomen rises. I noted it as rising. I experiences tension or tightness,” and so on. The same is true with falling, lifting, and so on. When reporting, you should start your report with noting the primary object before secondary ones.


  1. Bhūtam bhūtato passati
    • “one should observe what are happening as they really are.”


  1. Ardent effort, mindfulness, and concentration
    • For example, if an object is too subtle or minute to see through the naked eyes, we should take the help of the spectacles, a magnifying glass or a microscope. In the same way, in order to see the truth destroying the delusion, all we have to do to observe present objects with ardent effort, mindfulness, and concentration.


  1. Stop right away
    • For example, if the parent cannot take care of their child properly then the child may hang around with gangsters and may later become a gangster. In the same way, the mind naturally goes to desirable objects and is associated with lust or hatred.  You should take care of your mind by noting the presently arising object with aim and effort so that the mind will not wander or go astray.  If you find your mind associated with evil thoughts, you should note it as soon as you notice it so that they stop right away. It is what is called cittā-nupassanā, contemplation on the mind. This is explained in the text as: “The moment the thought arises it should be noted as it is.” (yasmim yasmim khane).


  1. Note continuously without gap
    • Momentary concentration is compared to a rope that is made up of many small fibers. Each small fiber is fragile and breakable. But when they are entwined into a rope, the rope becomes amazingly strong. In the same way, in the case of pure Vipassana practice, the concentration lasts only moment by moment because it is established on phenomena that are arising and disappearing moment by moment.  So, it cannot be strong.  However, if you can develop it continuously with no gaps in between by noting phenomena continuously, it can become strong enough to penetrate into the truth or to develop vipassana insights stage by stage until you become fully enlightened.


  1. Determine to note as much as I can
    • You should have the determination: “I will not fail to note anything obvious to me, even the smallest minute activity”. If you have such determination and note carefully, you will miss very few. Although you miss, you will know it.


  1. Different way of noting between sitting and walking
    • During the sitting meditation, you are supposed to note rising and falling of the abdomen as the primary object. When the secondary objects such as pain, wandering thoughts, become prominent, you can note them, too. During walking, you should keep your attention on the foot and note lifting, moving, and placing. You should not pay attention to other objects during walking in the way you do during sitting.


  1. Divide and conquer
    • You may think that it is too much to note every object continuously.  Actually, if you divide practice into three sections such as sitting, walking and general activities, then it will not be that much.


  1. Who is who
    • If people call every person born “Human” without given them any other individual names, then they will not know who is who. Only if individual names such as “Maung Phyu, Maung Hla,” etc. are given can people know distinctively who is who. A yogi should note any object that occurs according to conventional terms i.e. by labeling “rising,” “falling” etc. Only then can concentration be easily developed.


  1. Conceptual to ultimate truth
    • Although a yogi is supposed to be aware of ultimate truth, i.e., psycho-physical phenomena (paramattha), he or she has to deal with concepts (paññatti) unavoidably in the beginning of the practice. It is not easy to experience the ultimate truth (paramattha) right away. Of course, a yogi will see conceptual forms or shapes of a meditative object instead of its true characteristics in the beginning of the practice.
    • In the early stage the real phenomena are known with the help of correct names. When the practice gets mature, however, the noting mind will get established only on the real phenomena beyond the concepts.
    • Both concepts and realities appear to the beginner. Some people instruct the beginners to meditate on realities only. This is impossible. To forget concepts is quite impractical at the beginning. What is practical is to observe concepts combined with realities. The Buddha himself used the language of concepts and told us to be aware “I am walking,” etc., when we walk, bend or stretch. He did not use the language of realities and tell us to be “aware it is supporting, moving,” etc. Although you meditate using the language of concepts like “walking, bending, stretching,” as your mindfulness and concentration grow stronger, all the concepts disappear and only the realities like support and moving appear to you. When you reach the stage of the knowledge of dissolution, although you meditate “walking, walking,” neither the legs nor the body appear to you. Only the successive movements are there. Although you meditate “bending, bending,” there will not be any arms or legs. Only the movement. Although you meditate “rising, falling,” there will be no image of the abdomen or the body, only the movement out and in. These as well as swaying are functions of the air-element.


  1. Way to note while standing
    • At the end of the lane you should stop and note “standing, standing, standing”. While standing the legs or the feet are fully rested on the floor with the upper body upright. You should keep the awareness not only on the feet or legs but also the entire body as a whole.


  1. Way to note in walking meditation
    • You should keep your attention on the foot and note lifting, moving, and placing without paying attention to secondary objects like seeing, hearing, thoughts or itchiness. If the mind is totally distracted by these and goes off the foot, or if you really want to note them, however, you have to stop walking and note them accordingly. Right afterward, you should go back to the feet and note lifting, moving, and placing. The reason is that if you note other objects while you are walking, you would get confused among the moving feet and secondary objects, and your awareness would be superficial. This is the difference between sitting meditation and walking meditation.


  1. It is no need to learn the characteristics, functions and manifestations before you meditate.
    • When you meditate on the rising mind-and-matter, you know the characteristics, the functions, and the manifestations, as well. There is no other way than knowing by way of characteristics, functions, and manifestations when you meditate on the rising mind-and-matter. When you look up to the sky on a rainy day, you see a flash of lightning. This bright light is the characteristic of the lightning. As lightning flashes, darkness is dispelled. This dispelling of darkness is the function of lightning, its work. You also see what it is like -- whether it is long, short, a curve, a circle, straight, or vast. You see its characteristic, its function, its manifestation, all at once. Only you may not be able to say that the brightness is its characteristic, dispelling of darkness is its function, or its shape or outline is its manifestation. But you see them all the same.
    • In the same way, when you meditate on the rising mind and matter, you know its characteristic, its function, its manifestation, everything. You need not learn them. Some learned persons think that you have to learn them before you meditate. Not so. What you learn are only name concepts, not realities. The meditator who is contemplating the rising mind and matter knows them as if he were touching them with his own hand. He need not learn about them. If there is the elephant before your very eyes, you need not look at the picture of an elephant.


  1. The Elements of Insight Meditation
    • How is insight developed?
    • Insight is developed by meditating on the five aggregates of grasping.
    • Why and when do we meditate on the aggregates?
    • We meditate on the aggregates whenever they arise in order that we may not cling to them.
    • If we fail to meditate on mind and matter as they arise, clingings arise.
    • We cling to them as permanent, good, and as ego.
    • If we meditate on mind and matter as they arise, clingings do not arise.
    • It is plainly seen that all are impermanent, suffering, mere processes.
    • If we meditate on mind and matter as they arise, clingings do not arise.
    • It is plainly seen that all are impermanent, suffering, mere processes.
    • It is plainly seen that all are impermanent, suffering, mere processes.
    • Once clingings cease, the Path arises, leading to Nibbāna.
    • These, then, are the elements of Insight Meditation.


  1. Steering Wheel of Life
    • When driving a car, it is necessary to be able to handle the steering wheel. So too, it is necessary to be able to handle the steering wheel of Satipaṭṭhāna when driving on Life’s Journey.


  1. Automatic Battery Charging
    • The Body at work is drained of strength proportionate to the amount of work done. The mind working at Satipaṭṭhāna meditation gains in strength proportionate to the amount of work done. It is just like the automatic charging of a car battery when the car engine is kept running.


  1. Power for Purity and Peace
    • Just as bodily power of resistance is necessary for good health, so too mental power is needed for purity of mind. However, power does not come of itself; it has to be cultivated. Satipaṭṭhāna, if effectively developed, can fully provide this mental power.


  1. Separate Time for Practice
    • You may have family and social affairs to attend to, but you should nevertherless set aside a separate tim for Satipaṭṭhāna Meditation. There ought to be a division between worldly and Satipaṭṭhāna affairs.


  1. Yathāpākatam vipassanābhiniveso
    • Vipassana focuses on whatever is prominent.